- 1). Identify the materials used in the piece of jewelry. For example, jewelry made in the 18th and 19th centuries (from the late Georgian to the Victorian era) was often made out of silver, which has a metallic, earthy scent. Yellow gold and pinchbeck pieces were also made during this time. Semiprecious stones and enamel were frequently used during the Art Nouveau period (1890-1915) and non-traditional materials such as bone, horn, copper, shell, ivory and carved glass were also popular. Diamonds and pearls set in platinum were popular during the Edwardian era (early 1900s), and platinum and precious stones were used during the Art Deco period (1920-1935). Gold, semiprecious and synthetic stones characterized Retro jewelry (1935-1950).
- 2). Look at the type of fastener used on the piece. Brooches made in the 1800s generally have "C" catches on the back, while screw-back earrings came about in the 1890s. Riveted hinges on pins and lever-back earrings were not developed until 1900. Tongue-in-groove clasps were designed in 1910 and barrel clasps came along in the 1930s.
- 3). Study the cut of the gem, if applicable. For example, old mine cut diamonds are irregularly shaped and appear lumpy, but are brilliant under low lighting, and were very popular during the 18th and 19th centuries. European and rose-cut gems are often seen in antique pieces. Gems were hand-cut until the 1800s, when machines were invented to do the cutting. A modern cut is a reliable indicator that a piece of jewelry is not an antique piece.
- 4). Look at the style and craftsmanship of the piece. Jewelry was handmade until the mid-19th century, and the sides of jewelry pieces made during that period are not generally identical. The back of a piece of antique jewelry is just as intricate and ornate as the front of the piece, and antique jewelry that is a well-made piece is smoothly finished on the front and the back. You should be able to run your fingers over the front and back of a piece without feeling your fingers "catch" on anything.
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